What is the Difference Between Interviews & Conversations?
Imagine this scenario. You’ve just finished an interview for a new job. The most difficult portion of the interview was answering questions about your last position, where you had some serious disagreements and conflicts with management. Of course, you didn’t tell the interviewer that your boss didn’t know what he was doing half the time, or that he routinely behaved inappropriately toward other employees. Instead, you talked about how you learned a lot from your last company, but you’re looking for a different culture.
After the interview, you meet an old friend to talk about how it went. When they ask you why you didn’t like your previous job, you launch into a lengthy diatribe about all the terrible things your boss did and how you couldn’t wait to get out of that place. Real burn the place to the ground and salt the earth kind of stuff.
“Did you say that to the interviewer,” they ask.
“Of course not,” you say. “I’m not telling them what I REALLY think!”
Interviews vs. Conversations
This fun little hypothetical situation goes a long way toward explaining the fundamental differences between an interview and a conversation. Not only do interviews have a structured formality that places limits on the discussion, they’re also guided by someone who doesn’t have a close personal relationship with the subject. The interviewee may seem like they’re answering questions honestly, but what they’re usually doing is filtering their answers based on assumptions about what the person asking questions expects to hear. They may worry about being judged for their responses, or they may simply not feel comfortable giving an honest answer.
But in a conversation, all bets are off. Conversations are organic, chaotic even. They follow a non-linear path informed by the previous history and relationship between the participants. There’s less of a fear of being judged or concern that answers might be held against anyone. They can probe into personal information that wouldn’t be appropriate for an interviewer to ask. While the results are unfiltered, messy, and sometimes inconsistent, it’s a more honest representation of what a person thinks and feels.
Starting a Conversation
For UX researchers, the insights gained from conversations are invaluable. They offer a glimpse into the authentic, day-to-day experiences that affect people’s lives and shape their needs and wants. When it comes to designing actionable solutions that address people’s problems, there’s no better starting place.
Unfortunately, getting to those insights isn’t easy. The traditional interview approach takes place on the researcher’s terms. They write and ask the questions. They control the environment. They decide where to take the interview. While a skilled interviewer can certainly gather a lot of useful information from this process, they’re ultimately engaging in a controlled experiment. If the interview goes off track, that’s usually an indication that the interviewer is doing a poor job and needs to regain control of the situation.
But in a conversation, no one is in control. The dialogue may go significantly off course only to return to the original topic much later. In many cases, the nature of that diversion might actually stimulate different lines of discussion that reveal a great deal about what the participants think and feel. The challenge, then, is establishing the relationship bonds necessary for those kinds of discussions to take place. No one is going to be completely open and honest with someone they don’t know or trust.
This is the key challenge for UX researchers. Ultimately, they want to know things about strangers. They can walk into a room with the best questions imaginable and still not get the answers they’re really looking for because they don’t have a genuine relationship with the interviewees. Starting a conversation without those relationships is almost impossible.
At Motivate Design, we’re always trying to find out ways to rethink and reframe our approach to UX research. That’s why we’ve cultivated a diverse and wide-reaching “Insider Collective” to help us find out what people really think and feel. Armed with little more than a few starting questions about what we want to know, these insiders engage in authentic, honest conversations with the people in their lives. We take the results from those interactions and pull out key insights to showcase the things that actually inform people’s thoughts and drive their motivations.
This Insider Insight methodology is easy to implement and returns actionable results in as little as 48 hours. With this knowledge in hand, UX designers can build better products and design solutions that are more aligned with the actual needs of customers. It’s the perfect thing for shaking up assumptions and confirming whether or not a UX team is on the right track with their design work.
To learn more about Insider Insight and the way it leverages authentic conversations to produce tangible data points, contact us today and set up a sample trial. We can help you find the answer you’ve been looking for faster than you ever thought possible.